History and Information
From pizza, to curries, to salads, to burgers, tomatoes are used in countless dishes by almost all cultures around the world. Originating from central and southern America, they were adopted by most cultures across the world following the Spanish colonization of this area. While botanically considered a fruit, in the culinary world tomatoes are classified and used as a vegetable. They are a member of the Solanaceae family, which is shared with other vegetables such as potatoes and peppers. There are thousands of varieties of tomatoes across the world ranging from commonly found hothouse varieties, to beefsteak, to cherry tomatoes. Due in part to the increased interest in organic and local agriculture heirloom varieties of tomatoes have been growing in popularity. These varieties of tomatoes are non-gmo, and have often been passed down through families or farms. They are also non-hybrid so the seeds can be saved to grow a new set of plants each year.
Health benefits of Tomatoes
Tomatoes have a very good nutrient content, making them a great choice at the grocery store. They are high in vitamin A, vitamin C, and potassium, while also having a moderate amount of many other nutrients such as vitamin K, niacin, dietary fiber and manganese, among others.
A number of antioxidants and flavonoids, which help protect the body and cells from harmful free-radicals, and can provide some defense against cancer and the effects of ageing, are found in tomatoes. Some of the compounds that are found in this wonderful fruit are lycopene, which is found more often in red colored fruites, carotenoids, and zeaxanthin.
Another benefit of eating tomatoes is that while they are high in nutrients they have negligible amounts of fat, no cholesterol, and are very low in calories.
Choosing the Right Tomato
If you have the option of buying from a local farmers market or co-op this is always the best option as you know the fruit will be freshest, and have undergone the least amount of travel. Local fruits will also be more likely to have ripened on the vine rather than being picked early and then ripened on the shelf.
Choose tomatoes which have a rich bright color, as this will indicate both more flavor and a higher nutrient content. Buy fruit that has a uniform symmetrical shape, misformed fruits can indicate that the plant was stressed and under less than ideal growing conditions. Tomatoes should be firm but yield under slight pressure, with smooth skin.
Suggested Tomato Recipes
Vegan Bolognese Sauce Homemade Tomato Soup